Patterns in Urban Infrastructure

Keith Duddy of S23M and Simon Kaplan of the Urban Institute will give the following talk at the inaugural Urbanism New Zealand Conference in Wellington on Tuesday, 15 May 2018 (1.30pm - 2.00pm).

Pattern-based thinking as a basis for interdisciplinary urban infrastructure delivery and value creation


S23M and the Urban Institute represent a cross section of the skills and approaches needed for whole of life-cycle planning and delivery of urban infrastructure. This ranges from the analysis of the needs and motivations for urban infrastructure, to the delivery of smart street amenities and the use of this digitally-enabled hardware to deliver insights and innovation to a city through ongoing data collection and analysis. The lens which unifies each of the disciplines involved in such a project is the Pattern. We use the concept of a Pattern Language, introduced by Christopher Alexander as a tool for thinking about urban forms and architecture in 1977, and which has been adopted by computer scientists Gamma, et al. in 1994 as a conceptualisation of software engineering. Patterns are fractal in nature, and are used as ways of envisioning urban environments from the largest granularity of the city through to the scale of a neighbourhood or precinct, and cover both the architecture present in that geography and the affordances provided for the navigation and fascination of citizens. More recently, patterns are used as characterisations of computer programs and the data traces of smart devices, fixed and mobile, which are increasingly embedded into urban environments.

As the collaborators who would plan, purchase, install, operate and maintain smart urban infrastructure are from many disciplines, we present a framework for the communication of the concepts that they would use to transfer meaning through an increasingly finer-grained set of patterns: starting from the layout of streets and street infrastructure, and ending down in the computing infrastructure that correlates data representing events and actors. This approach enables dynamic analysis, reconfiguration and better use of city infrastructure, with the goal of more sustainable use of resources and a richer experience for city dwellers.